AAFP calls on feds to eliminate health IT utilization measures, focus on data blocking

Doctor typing on laptop
In a letter to top officials at CMS and ONC, AAFP says "all HIT utilization measures to be eliminated." (Getty/shironosov)

The nation’s leading association of family physicians is urging federal officials to eliminate health IT utilization measures, pare down documentation guidelines and instead focus their energy eliminating data blocking.

In a letter (PDF) to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma and Donald Rucker, M.D., the top official at the Office of the National Coordinator for the Health IT(ONC), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) outlined ways in which the two agencies can ease the “crushing administrative and regulatory burden” that drives physicians out of practice.

The letter comes on the heels of an announcement that the organization plans to focus on administrative simplification, with medical record documentation listed among its four priorities.

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Although provisions of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) reduced some of the EHR reporting measures compared to Meaningful Use, AAFP Board Chair John Meigs, Jr., M.D., said inefficient health IT requirements are still part of the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).

“Now that MIPS utilizes measures of quality, cost and practice improvement, the AAFP calls for all HIT utilization measures to be eliminated,” he wrote. “Because we recognize that some of these uses are mandated in statute, we urge CMS and ONC to work with Congress to remedy this unfortunate and outdated approach.”

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Meigs added that EHR requirements should be stripped down and reimplemented based on a survey published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association where physicians identified 13 Meaningful Use criteria that were useful for less than half of patient encounters. Electronic documentation of patient encounters was the most burdensome task, according to that survey.

Instead, Meigs advocated for CMS and ONC to “fully use its information blocking authority” outlined in 21st Century Cures Act to ensure data can be exchanged rather than what types of data can be included. He said summaries of care are often filled with “clinically irrelevant” information to meet regulatory requirements, forcing physicians to wade through the unneeded information.

“We believe the priority relative to health IT is to improve usability and then focus on interoperability,” he wrote.